Not all food trends are annoying, and though we know "to each his/her own" is a good rule by which to live, there are a few gems out there in the food world that we cannot wait to see more of.
Here are Five 2013 Food Trends That We Hope Stick Around in 2014:
5. Bread & Butter Service
Bread and butter programs have been #trending in the past couple of years...and we love it. If the breads and spreads are as exceptional as we've seen at restaurants like Provisions, Roost, or Underbelly, we certainly don't mind shelling out the extra cash.
Take, for example, Provisions' bread and cheese pairings -- a black-olive loaf with violet-date mostarda and a wedge of Red Rock cow's milk cheese is well worth the $9 price tag.
Keep the crusty baguettes coming. We look forward to more restaurants creating mindful pairings of their own.
4. The Revival of Downtown
Like a phoenix ascending from the ashes, it's clear that Downtown is back and better than ever.
This year we saw the rise of a downtown überblock with the introduction of hotspots like The Pastry War, Fusion Taco, Goro & Gun, El Big Bad, and OKRA Charity Saloon, which technically opened last December. We love walking around Market Square Park and reacquainting ourselves with old favorites like Warren's, La Carafe and Hearsay Gastro Lounge in between exploring the newbies -- like the upcoming live music bar and lounge, The Nightingale Club.
With the expanding train line, more bike lanes, and the bike-sharing program B-cycle, we hope for the area's continued development and success so we can put the days of the downtown ghost town behind us.
3. The Rise of Ramen
Love it or hate it, ramen is here to stay. We think the recent showings -- from this summer's Ramen throwdown at IKEA to ramen-centric restaurants like the newly opened Tiger Den and Ramen Jin -- prove that ramen deserves its fair chance. Houston's a big city, after all.
We're looking forward to the continued flow of ramen shops in 2014. Soon, Midtowners can enjoy the California-based Jinya Ramen Bar, while ninja-enthusiasts can enjoy Washington Avenue's Ninja Ramen, a restaurant that, according to Eater Houston, plans on slinging top-notch ramen and offering discounts to people dressed as ninjas.
We have high hopes that these places will pan out and even adapt to our city's unique tastes with a few Houston-centric bowls. Crawfish ramen, anyone?
2. The Boom of Houston BBQ
We're sick and tired of Houston being snubbed on national Best Barbecue lists. In the past, even we have bought into the myth that Houston is not a "barbecue city," but the times, they are a'changin'.
We're coming off the sellout of the first-ever Houston Barbecue Festival, the overdue recognition of favorites like Corkscrew BBQ and Gatlin's, and a couple of exciting restaurant openings and pop-ups.
Take Killen's BBQ, for example. Chef Ronnie Killen has vowed to put Houston on the map and, as he told Eater Houston, "overthrow Franklin from being the king of barbecue," with his soon-to-open barbecue joint. If the ultra-successful pop-up that he's been running up until the restaurant's opening is any indication, consider Houston recognized.
But we don't want the barbecue train to stop there. We are all aboard for 2014.
1. Kitchen Collaborations
From chefs and sommeliers to master brewers and food-truck crews, when the city's top culinary masterminds mash their minds, the result is nothing shy of genius.
This year, we saw chefs collaborating all over town. At pho pop-up Blacksmith by Night, Pho Binh By Night dished out specialties like pho ga kho, while Blacksmith baristas served up Vietnamese iced coffee and jasmine milk tea. During James Coney Island's (a.k.a JCI Grill) Show Dog series, we were treated to hot dogs created by the city's top chefs -- like chef Monica Pope's Date with a Dog, a chorizo-stuffed, bacon-wrapped kobe beef dog topped with date jam.
Even out-of-towners have joined the fun; at Underbelly's Food & Wine Best New Chef Collaboration Dinner, chefs Michael Hudman and Andy Ticer teamed up with chef Chris Shepherd to create an unforgettable meal, including a course dedicated to the late Feast, a dish of cassoulet beans, spicy sausage and boudin-stuffed duck necks.
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And those are just a few of the collaborations this year has brought. In our opinion, this is one trend that should never end.
Other trends we are looking forward to? Vegetables as the star of the show, family-style menus, and the emphasis on sourcing locally, whether it be produce and poultry or artisan chocolate and craft brews.
Here's to 2014, Houston! We can't wait to see what's next.